“All conversions not illegal”: Supreme Court refuses to stay Madhya Pradesh HC order against declaration of religious conversion before DM

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The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday refused to stay a recent order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court that had struck down the mandatory requirement under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act to make a declaration to the District Magistrate during religious conversion [State of Madhya Pradesh and ors vs Samuel Daniel].

A bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar issued notice on the appeal filed by Madhya Pradesh government against the High Court verdict.

“All conversions cannot be said to be illegal. Issue notice on the SLP as well as interim relief, returnable on February 7. Dasti permitted,” the bench observed.

During the hearing today, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for State argued that, “there is no prohibition against marriage or conversion. District Magistrate may only be intimated, that is all a stay would do.”

To this, the bench replied, that it cannot entertain this, and if the State has any counter that may be presented on next date of hearing.

The matter will be heard next on February 7.

A bench of Justices Sujoy Paul and Prakash Chandra Gupta of High Court had in its order of November 14, 2022, directed the State government not to take any coercive action against any person who contravenes Section 10 (declaration before conversion of religion) of the Act.

“Section 10 makes it obligatory for a citizen desiring conversion to give a declaration in this regard to the District Magistrate which in our opinion ex facie, unconstitutional in the teeth of aforesaid judgments of this Court. Thus, till further orders, respondent shall not prosecute the adult citizens if they solemnize marriage on their own volition and shall not take coercive action for violation of Section 10 of Act of 21,” the order had stated.

The High Court had passed the order while it was considering a batch of pleas challenging the constitutionality of the Act.

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